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Art gallery pulls back from gallery/library building project

Town and library intend to forge ahead without gallery
The draft concept landscape plan for Veteran’s Peace Park if a new library and art gallery project goes ahead. (Urban Arts Architecture drawing)

The new library and art gallery building project is off the books.

The Town of Smithers, Smithers Public Library and Smithers Art Gallery have been working together for many years trying to bring a new library/gallery building to the town.

Over the years, the town, on behalf of the project partners, brought forward two grant applications to senior levels of government for funding and both were denied.

Councillor John Buikema said the town put out a press release with the news to end this vision because library staff were getting questions lately and didn’t know how to answer them.

“We need to have some clear communication to the community with regards to the project,” he said.

Gallery manager Nicole Chernish said it was a hard decision not to participate in the project anymore.

“First off, we have deepened relationships and collaborated on programming with the library staff and the Town of Smithers during this process and that will definitely continue into the future,” she said.

“Secondly, this project has been under development for the past ten years as a combined vision of what our community’s cultural facilities could look like. After two failed funding attempts, the gallery needed to take the time to assess our current resources - staffing, facilities and time availability when considering continued involvement in a new building project.”

She added that in the last ten years, their organization has definitely changed including a new workshop space, Creation Station, provided by the Town of Smithers on Railway Avenue.

“This met many of our space concerns as, prior to having this space, workshops were held right in the gallery. We also received a grant for movable walls which we use to create adaptable hanging space as needed for exhibitions. These infrastructure changes mean we have been able to grow our programming and meet the needs of our community without a new facility,” she said.

Cherish said while the Central Park Building does have significant limitations, they are content with their current spaces and the ability to continue to grow their offerings related to the visual arts in the community and beyond. “We are developing a community survey in the near future to help us create a vision that will, hopefully, knock everyone’s socks off,” she said.

Meanwhile, the library and the town intend to continue working towards a new library building to meet the current needs of the community. They will look into exploring alternative models that may increase the likelihood of receiving the necessary financial support from senior levels of government.

The donations received to date for this project continue to be held by the Town of Smithers.

After the upcoming municipal election and after strategic and financial planning activities, the town intends to share another update.

READ MORE: Concept design for new $15.87-million library/art gallery


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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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